By Matthew Burrell, 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd IDJanuary 20, 2011
MUHAMMADI, Iraq - Soldiers with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, facilitated the delivery of 80 desks to students of the Athathib School in Muhammadi, Jan. 5.
The delivery was in conjunction with the Commander's Small Scale Projects fund during Operation New Dawn. The CSSP, a subset of Commander's Emergency Response Program, offers more flexibility than its predecessor which can take up to three weeks to be approved. The CSSP, on the other hand, authorizes a subordinate command battalion to execute projects up to $5,000 without command approval.
Each subordinate battalion is authorized to draw and keep on-hand up to $50,000 worth of CSSP funds. The humanitarian purchases must follow the same rules as CERP projects, but allow the battalion to react to civil vulnerabilities that could affect the overall security in the area. It provides a timely and effective means of reaching out to the local populace.
While B. Co., 3rd Bn, 7th Inf. Regt. provided the funding and logistical support for the mission, the Iraqis provided everything else, including on-site security at the school.
"The Iraqis have done a good job providing security at these sites," said 1st Lt. Hertier Diakabam, platoon leader with B Company. "The humanitarian aid helps out the populace a lot."
The company facilitates about two CSSP humanitarian aid drops a month to the areas of Hit, Muhammadi, and Kubaysah. Local schools and government centers that have been identified for need are the recipients of the aid. In most cases the HA comes in the form of food provisions, according to Diakabam. The last drop in late December to the Women's Association of Hit highlighted the progress the Iraqis have made when planning and executing humanitarian aid. They delivered sewing machines to the Women's Association in Hit and residents of the city were allowed to come in and use the sewing machines to repair blankets, shirts, and blouses, among other things.
"They know how to identify, provide security; they pretty much got it," explained Staff Sgt. Stephen Couto, the B Co. Effects noncommissioned officer, "I get 10 to 15 small scale projects a month."
As the U.S. military presence draws down in Iraq during Operation New Dawn, it is important that the Iraqis take a larger role in the execution of humanitarian aid missions like CSSP. So far, the Iraqis are doing exactly that.
Captain Devin Hammond, B Co. commanding officer, whose first tour to Iraq was in 2005, has seen firsthand the kind of growth the Iraqis have undergone in recent years. He remembers a time not so long ago that the roles were reversed.
"In my first tour, we provided security for the ISF on these HA drops," he said. "Now, the ISF looks out for us."